Nutrition advice: How to avoid common dieting problems - News Sentinel

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If you've ever lost weight, you know it's not easy to make it last. In fact, there are a few key problems to pay attention to before the diet even starts. Here are some common problems and ways you can avoid them.

The Problem: After losing those pounds, you suddenly feel that, overnight, your body has changed, making you a charter member of the exclusive "fast-metabolism-I-can-eat-whatever-I want" club.

Then one morning you wake up and the mirror reveals a truth that cannot be denied. You were never in the club. Not only have you regained the weight you lost, you've actually added more pounds.

The Fix: To begin with, it ought to be obvious that once you lose weight, you need to keep the weight off by eating the same types of foods that helped you shed the pounds — not by going back to consuming whole boxes of cookies in front of the TV. But it is not obvious to most.

Most dieters are restricting foods, and not planning a livable diet. What is a livable diet? It's a diet you can live with for the rest of your life. So let me ask you a question: How long can you hold your breath? Maybe 40 seconds. So, yes, you can do it, but only for a short time. Well, that's how most people diet — they can do it for a bit, but they can't keep holding their breath forever.

To come up with a livable diet, you need to find a variety of foods you can eat that are healthy and tasty instead of thinking about what you can't eat. The most important factor to consider when you create a livable diet is accommodating your food preferences. In fact, the Journal of Nutrition reports that taste is the single most important reason people choose the foods they do, and that this is also an important factor for regulating "hunger, satiety and voluntary food intake."

Not sure how to choose the foods for your livable diet? Look for Calorie Bargains, or foods that taste great but are healthier and lower in calories than what you normally eat (and that you won't end up eating too much of — which would negate the Calorie Bargain effect).

To help you find Calorie Bargains, start by purchasing a few cookbooks or going online to and Get the Hungry Girl series of books ( to find some creative tips on low-calorie foods and snacks.

The Problem: You've been on a diet and haven't lost as much as you'd hoped. You're demoralized and have no desire to try again.

The Fix: Connect to the past. Keep in mind that, every time you diet, you learn something. Whether or not you're successful, there is a lesson to be learned. Review your diet disasters and never be ashamed of your failures. Think of the strategies that didn't work. By looking at these failures, you learn what not to repeat. Ask yourself: Why didn't these strategies work, and what have I learned?

For instance, you might have had the following situation: "All the dieting gurus told me, 'Don't deprive yourself.' Well, I didn't deprive myself. However, I went too far. Whenever I wanted cookies, I ate them. I would try having just one, but I couldn't stop. I put on 10 pounds following the 'don't deprive yourself' diet."

Examine successes. One of the most important techniques associated with permanent weight loss is to review your successes. For instance, from Atkins you might have learned you didn't need bread to feel satisfied by a sandwich: Just the meat and veggies wrapped in a lettuce leaf were satisfying on their own.

From South Beach, you might have learned about good carbs versus bad carbs. Maybe Weight Watchers helped you realize that surrounding yourself with supportive people keeps you motivated. Or with Jenny Craig, you might have learned portion control by eating the program's prepared foods.

Write down everything you've learned from your past successes. Then hold on to those facts, attitudes and behaviors to keep the weight off.

The Problem: Diets are exhausting. They take time, effort and often don't provide enough calories for sustained energy.

The Fix: Planning is the answer. Develop an action plan by thinking ahead. You can minimize crises by anticipating obstacles and planning how to surmount them. There are seven characteristics of effective planning and goal setting you can remember with the acronym SMARTER: Specific; Motivating; Achievable; Rewarding; Tactical; Evaluated; Revisable. See: and check out the following goal-planning guide to help put your goals in action: "Get Back on the Diet Track"

Also, eat smart. If you don't eat enough food, especially essentials such as fruits and vegetables, you will feel deprived and tired. Also, don't ignore exercise. It can help you stay strong, and research shows that it will help give you energy.

The Problem: If "diet" is simply another word for deprivation, it makes sense that any time we deny ourselves food we will want to eat more than ever. We tend to want things we can't have, so why would we think food was any different? Keep in mind, if you restrict too much (and eat too few calories), your body can hold on to the fat because it thinks it's starving.

The Fix: Do not restrict yourself too much. Balance is key, and you need to eat less of the garbage foods and more high-quality healthy foods. Yes, you do need to make some changes in your diet, but if you toss out everything but lettuce, celery and the occasional apple, you're setting yourself up for failure.

The key is to compromise: Make healthier, lower-calorie choices. Also, follow the advice of experts: Eat lean protein to fend off hunger. Fill up on vegetables. When eating bread and pasta, make sure it's 100 percent whole-grain — and limit amounts. By doing that, you'll be able to keep those

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of

16 Oct, 2011

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